Social Media: a Challenge and Opportunity for Local Councils
As NALC’s National Partners for communication advice for parish and town councils, one of the topics that we get asked about most by Clerks and Council Officers is social media. From how to get started to how to get the most out of it and how to make it a really useful part of a council’s overall communications mix.
This is perhaps unsurprising, given the significant growth of social media, both in terms of the number of platforms available to local councils, as well as the growing number of users across all demographics in all parts of the country. In fact, the number of social media users in the UK is forecast to reach nearly 51 million by 2025, according to Statista.
However parish and town councils also tell us they sometimes face a number of different challenges when it comes to social media.
For some councils, there is the challenge of working out how to get started and giving consideration to which policies, processes and procedures (as well as human resources) might need to be in place to manage council social media effectively. For other councils, who are perhaps more experienced on social media, they might be looking to branch out onto to new platforms, engage residents and other stakeholders in a more strategic way, but they are unclear where to focus their time and effort, and what pitfalls they should avoid.
Then there is the concern about perceived negativity that can sometimes be associated with social media, whether it’s online bullying (sometimes known as ‘trolling), how councillors might use social media or the danger of disgruntled residents using it as a platform to negatively converse with the council. There may even be those who are concerned that their council’s social media will become unmanageable if too many people seek to proactively engage in conversations with the council.
Yet it is entirely possible to turn all of these understandable potential concerns and challenges into strategic opportunities for the council. And this point is an important one: because it is more important than ever that social media is viewed as a strategic opportunity for even more effective communication with our communities, for councils of all shapes and sizes.
For councils of all shapes and sizes, social media is a crucial part of an overall communications mix and should absolutely form a key component of a council’s overall communication’s strategy.
So, what should your council’s social media strategy look like?
What's your council's Social Media Strategy?
As with anything, it’s important to start with a strategy and a clear plan of action. Knowing what you’re seeking to achieve is important for any communications medium, and social media is no different.
As you seek to build and then implement a council social media strategy (which is entirely different to a social media policy), questions your council should give thought to might include:
- What is the purpose of the council’s social media presence(s) and what are we trying to achieve?
- How will our council’s social media support our communications objectives?
- What is our plan for content?
- Who will administer the council’s social media?
- What resources can we make use of to save ourselves time and money?
- What do councils like ours do well on social media?
When it comes to social media, what does your council do well?
Social media is an important part of any council’s communication mix, offering a number of positive benefits for parish and town councils of all sizes.
Yet a challenge for many councils is understanding how well their social media is actually performing, and understanding how it compares to councils of a similar size. One of the services we provide to councils is in-depth social media audit and reviews, which helps councils understand what is working well and what can be improved. For many of these councils, we are often asked to develop in-depth communication strategies as well.
For councils wanting to get a taster of these services, we’re now able to offer an entirely free ‘Mini Social Media Health Check’. There’s absolutely no cost involved, whatsoever. If you’re interested, watch the video below, then fill out the form below – and we’ll be in touch!